Next generation therapies for hearing and balance

Human hearing and balance are two of the most poorly understood senses at a molecular level. This is largely the result of inaccessibility to the adult inner ear via biopsy, resulting in a lack of human tissue available for studying the specialised cell types that reside within it. A renewable source of human inner ear cells and tissues could provide an in vitro platform to better understand the molecular and physiological attributes of these sensory cells, and would be of interest to commercial enterprise as a way of screening new drugs and molecules to protect these vulnerable cells.

Our current research projects are directed at examining how closely inner ear organoids mirror their human tissue counterparts. We work collaboratively with researchers at the University of Toronto on this topic to accelerate the development of a renewable source of human inner ear cells for the purpose of studying normal biology, disease modelling and drug screening. In addition, our team work directly with Cochlear Ltd and UNSW to evaluate novel cochlear implant biomaterials and to better understand the impact of platinum dissolution (from cochlear implants) on key inner ear cell types.


  • Generation of inner ear organoids from human pluripotent stem cells
  • Development of novel inner ear co-cultures with and without electrical stimulation
  • In vivo models of cochlear implantation
  • Fluorescence confocal microscopy
  • Single cell sequencing of inner ear cell types and organoids


  • Development of human tissue models to study human hearing and balance (and their disorders)
  • Industry partnerships with Cochlear Ltd. (ARC Linkage)

Program Leader:

A/Prof Bryony Nayagam